Rockford to gain new academic center

By Claudia Curry

The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved a $40,000 grant allocation Wednesday to fund the development of the new Northern Illinois Regional Academic Center in Rockford.

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said, “The first step on the plans for NIRAC will be a needs-assessment study.

“We want to increase educational programming, but first we are assessing what the people in the Rockford area want. This study will help us narrow down the possibilities of what type of programming would be the most beneficial.”

The IBHE, at its July 1 meeting, approved a grant of $60,000 for the establishment of the new cooperative college institution in Rockford led by NIU and including Rock Valley College and Rockford College.

NIU President John LaTourette said, “It’s going to take some time to look into all the areas of need at the center, but we have already developed a draft for a study proposal concerning the needs-assessment program.”

Much of the discussion at the IBHE meeting revolved around a tuition policy report, a comparative cost analysis report and a staffing report, Groves said.

The tuition report concentrated on the status of tuition and the financial situation of higher education, he said. Groves said, “At one time, tuition was viewed as what the student ought to contribute to his education.

“Now, because of the lack of adequate state funding, tuition is viewed as a vital source of revenue. We have to find a way to get additional funding for our departments and programs or else we have to shut them down. That is why we have to turn to the student for the price of education.”

LaTourette said all items on Wednesday’s agenda were approved except for a capital construction item for the Wilbur Wright College Campus in Chicago.

The total amount requested for the new campus was $73.4 million. This item was withdrawn because not enough details were presented on the funding appropriations for approval, LaTourette said.